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The First Grader [DVD]


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Product details

  • Actors: Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Sam Feuer
  • Directors: Justin Chadwick
  • Format: PAL
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: SODA
  • DVD Release Date: 17 Oct. 2011
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00505QAY0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,614 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Directed by Justin Chadwick (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL) and written by Emmy winner Ann Peacock (THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA), THE FIRST GRADER is the triumphant true story of one man’s battle to overcome his past in order to be educated.

When the Kenyan government promises free education for all, 84 year-old Maruge (Oliver Litondo in his debut role) makes his way to a remote primary school in the Kenyan bush to get himself the education he has always been denied.  A former Mau Mau warrior, fifty years earlier he fought for the liberation of his country and now he must fight for his right to learn to read and write in a class of six-year-olds.  Moved by his passionate plea, head teacher Jane (Naomie Harris, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) supports his struggle to gain admission and together they face fierce opposition from parents and officials who don’t want to waste a precious school place on an old man.

Full of humour and vitality, THE FIRST GRADER uncovers the shocking untold history of British colonial rule in Kenya and tells the remarkable, inspirational story of one man's determination to learn in the face of adversity.

Extras:
Making The First Grader, incl interviews with Naomie Harris
What Happened Next: Maruge's journey to the UN with ActionAid

Subtitle information:
Original language: English
Subtitles for the hard of hearing: None
Subtitles: None

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 21 Jun. 2011
Format: DVD
Insofar as it plumps for a "heart-warming and inspiring" general vibe (and it does: it's even in the production notes), Justin Chadwick's new film The First Grader certainly gives itself a fighting chance. Well, how many cockle-warming boxes can you check: illiterate octogenarian; overflowing rural Kenyan primary school; the massive, rolling expanses of the Kenyan bush; the accompaniment of African music and a dazzling, wholesome heroine to beam at the screen whenever things start to lag a bit.

Chadwick makes the most of these facilities, available to him in abundance, and why not: there are several scenes where unbearably cute little children buzz happily around the sombre silhouette of a elderly figure, and it is impossible not to be gladdened, whatever the context. Kimani Maruge, the titular first grader, even wears a child's school uniform - including shorts and socks - and gamely wrestles with cat, sat and mat by day and in the night retreats to a darkened shed, and stares into the distant darkness with ancient, sad eyes.

Before long we are let into the secret of those sad eyes.

As of course it must be, while based on a true story this account is heavily fictionalised: only that nod to verisimilitude gave any licence to make a film which would otherwise be too cheesy to survive the pitch. No doubt in a number of ways the real story would have made for inconvenient narrative: I doubt, for example, Maruge actually marched into the Kenyan education minister's office and ripped his shirt off.

While Chadwick is never ambitious with his film - he knows what his assets are, flaunts them, and doesn't try any funny stuff - he is nonetheless challengingly political.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Oct. 2011
Format: DVD
Justin Chadwick's film is a well intentioned and honorable effort to bring the story of Kenyan villager Kimani Maruge to the big screen. Maruge made international news in 2003 when at the age of 84 he made the Guinness book of records for becoming the oldest person ever to enrol in an infants school. He had taken his governments slogan of 'education for all' quite literally. It is certainly an uplifting 'the pen is mightier than the sword' true story, and highlights how important education is to many third world countries where young students happily walk many miles to attend school each day. Maruge gained such status that he even visited the United Nations, and you can see the man himself in a very short film in the special features. He died in 2009 aged 89 years. His indomitable spirit and determination to seek fairness is at the heart of the film.

The film is anchored by two very fine performances from the lead players. English actress Naomie Harris deservedly had glowing praise from critics for her performance. Her accent passes muster and she brings the correct gravitas to her performance, but she is eclipsed by little known Kenyan born Oliver Litondo who gives an immensely powerful performance in the lead role. Without his performance the film would have no cement to hold the whole structure together, which creaks a little as it is. Litondo brings a humility to the role that Maruge himself would surely have approved of. What he might not have approved of is the films moments of implausible Hollywood style melodrama. The films closing scenes show this at its worst! Whilst the classroom scenes are a delight, the flashbacks to Maruge's Mau Mau past are a bit overcooked. Perhaps a more subdued approach to past colonial wrongs would have served better, and had more dramatic impact. Overlooking this it is not a bad film. It takes a while to get going but tells a worthy story, which is well filmed and well acted. Worth a watch.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alan Hudson on 19 July 2011
Format: DVD
I just this film on the 29th October 2010 at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

I think this is the first time that I can say that a film has had a profound affect upon me. It's a fantastic story, and what makes it all the more amazing, as confirmed by Justin Chadwick at the festival, everything you see in the film is true and actually happened.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was moved to tears, and these were not tears of joy. Emotionally, this is a heavyweight amongst films.

The film also left me not being very proud to be British. It covers, in flash back, a part of our history that I am sure most of my fellow countrymen would wish had never happened.

I would strongly recommend that every Britain and every Kenyan watches this film. It will move them all to tears, and teach us all lessons we should not forget for the future.

If you do go to watch it, take plenty of handkerchiefs. You'll need them!
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By Corinne on 7 July 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It a must see DVD. Great story. Thanks
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By tallstories on 25 Oct. 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
There are African films directed by Westerners and Europeans to make them fit in with the Western/European market and sensibilities. And then there are African films! Although this is an easy 'get' and ticks a lot of the commercial boxes it is directed by an Englishman who seems to have made a genuine African movie. It is also set apart by the magnificent central performance by Oliver Litondo.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Another wonderful film, of interest to anyone who has lived in Kenya.
A serious subject, but with lots of comedy moments
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to those people who like thought provoking and moving films. It was a little slow in places, so if you like fast moving films, then this wouldn't be for you. Some aspects were hard to watch, but very enlightening - this was a part of history I am ashamed to say I didn't know anything about. I am pleased I bought this DVD, as I have wanted to see the film for a long time. It didn't disappoint.
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